Poll: General Assembly's approval at 22%, voters split on state's direction

Voters are split on the direction of the state and poll numbers for the Legislature are low.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Four of 10 registered voters say the state's current direction is the wrong one, while 4 in 10 others say the opposite is true.

That's according to the most recent ABC News 4/Post and Courier poll released Tuesday and conducted by Voter Survey Service. The poll shows voters are evenly split on whether the state is headed in the right direction.

The polling data shows a split on party lines with 59 percent of registered Republicans saying the state is on the right track and 64 percent of registered Democrats saying it's on the wrong track.

However, a majority of independent voters - 52 percent - say the state is on the wrong track.

Part of the blame for the lukewarm numbers for the state's direction could lie with the state Legislature. According to the poll, only 22 percent of registered voters approve of the work the members of the General Assembly.

Forty-five percent of voters disapprove of the General Assembly's work in Columbia, and 33 percent are undecided.

"There's a lot of negative publicity about the legislature. There's been ethics issues and I think the inability to get ethics reform certainly doesn't help," said College of Charleston Political Science Department chair Gibbs Knotts. "But keep in mind Congress has very low approval ratings. I've even see a survey nationally that the U.S. Congress has an approval rating of about 10 percent."

Political reporter for the Post and Courier Robert Behre agrees with Knotts' assessment.

"For a lot of voters, their attitude towards the state Legislature is very similar to their attitude toward Congress. They don't like the Legislature. They don't like Congress. However, they do kind of like and support their lawmaker or their Congressman," he said.

Knotts pointed out that all but one of the U.S. House seats and both of the U.S. Senate seats along with the governor's office are held by Republicans. On the state level, Republicans hold a majority in both houses.

But Knotts says there's no sign of a growing anti-incumbent sentiment that could unseat a lot of sitting elected officials.

"I would expect incumbents to do pretty well," he said of the incumbents currently working on 2014 campaigns.

The age split seen in Tuesday's polling data that had registered voters under the age of 55 favoring state Sen. Vincent Sheheen and those 55 and older favoring Gov. Nikki Haley played out the same way when discussing the direction of the state.

Younger voters said the state was headed in the wrong direction while older voters tended to say it was headed more in the right direction.

However, the only age group to say by majority that the state was on the right track was those 65 and older. Fifty-two percent of that group thought the state was headed in the right direction.

In the other three age groups - 18-44, 45-54, and 55-64 - a majority said either they were undecided or felt the state was headed in the wrong direction.

According to the poll, white registered voters are more likely to say the state is headed in the right direction than are non-white voters. Forty-seven percent of white voters said the state was on the right track while only 22 percent of non-white voters said the same thing.

Sixty percent of non-white voters said the country was headed in the wrong direction, which is nearly double the number of white voters who said the same.

Regionally, the poll shows that the Upstate tends to lean slightly in the direction that the state is headed in the right direction while voters in the Lowcountry and Midlands tend to be of the opinion that the state is headed in the wrong direction.

The poll was commissioned by ABC News 4 and the Post and Courier along with WYFF in Greenville, and WACHFox in Columbia. It was conducted by Voter Survey Service, a division of Susquehanna Polling and Research, from July 7-13 with 1,000 registered voters and July 16-20 with an additional 650 registered voters.

In order to be eligible to complete the survey respondents had to first indicate their likelihood of voting in the upcoming general election for Governor and U.S. Senate on Tuesday, Nov. 4. The full results include results from an automated system and live agent interviews to gather information from younger voters or people using only cellphones.

Each day this week, the Post and Courier and ABC News 4 will release more data from the Voter Survey Service poll, including information on U.S. Senate races, the direction of the state, and how big issues in other states are considered in South Carolina. ABC News 4 will release more information every night at 6 p.m. with follow-up coverage in the Post and Courier each morning.

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